For growers laying drip tape or other work requiring pinpoint accuracy, that investment may be worth the price, Gilbert says.
But for the vegetable grower just looking to dip his or her toe into the technology pool, he says the low-cost GPS light bar systems using free sub-meter GPS signals will help tractor operators reduce skips or overlaps in the field, reduce passes and save on inputs and labor.
“For $5,000 to $6,000, a grower can pull an EZ-Steer system out of the box and be good to go,” Gilbert says.
He estimates that even the basic GPS system can save a grower several days on his tillage by eliminating up to 10 acres of overlap on a typical 130-acre center-pivot-irrigated field.
The systems also can be upgraded if growers want to obtain better accuracy, Gilbert says.
Like many new technologies, Heilig says it’s hard to determine the exact return on investment, but he knows that GPS is making his operation more efficient and more cost effective.
“The advantage with planting is that you utilize your acreage more efficiently, which probably would improve your yield, especially if you have a tendency to get wide guess rows,” Heilig says. “If nothing else, it’s a pride thing if somebody else drives by and sees your lines nice and straight.”
To receive this article, as well as all of the articles in the November 2007 issue, subscribe to the print version of The Grower magazine.